This weekend, Heather and I along with our son Giovanni once again ran for water in Abbotsford, BC. This is the fourth year in a row that we have participated in this amazing running event-Run for Water— that raises money for water projects in Africa. This year’s event raised over $300,000 for a village in Ethiopia. The dedication and energy from the race staff and the hundreds of volunteers is just amazing. And as far as races go-you’d be hard pressed to find a better organized run in the Northwest. Everything about this race is superb-the course-volunteers-healthy food-ample water stations-ample porta-potties- coordinated races that don’t get in the way of each other-this is a must-do run for Northwest runners. And every year we are always amazed that more people from Washington don’t make the short and easy trip to Abbotsford to participate in this race. There’s no traffic-no border lines-and if you live in Skagit County or Bellingham-it’s closer than going to Seattle–and I’ll mention it again-no traffic!
Heather pushed Giovanni for the entire Half Marathon (21 kilometers) making this Giovanni’s first race-first half marathon-and first trip to Canada too. And this goes without saying-after the race-he enjoyed his first trip to Tim Horton’s! All three of us hope that many of you will consider joining us next year-there is a 10k and 5K too if you don’t feel like running 13.1 miles!
Below is my initial race report I wrote for Northwest Runner magazine on the event back in 2012 after I ran the event’s full marathon. The race keeps getting better.
Run for Water Marathon
Abbotsford, British Columbia
May 27, 2012
By Craig Romano
It was back in 2007 when Abbotsford, BC resident Ken Baerg came up with an idea to form a society that would not only hold a top tier running event, but also raise funds and awareness for a central cause. The cause would be water—something we in the Northwest have an abundance of—but for millions of people in the developing world, clean water is scarce. Running and water go together naturally. “Runners possess an acute understanding of the importance of hydration—how critical clean drinking water is to sustaining fitness, health and life,” Baerg says. But he points out that in the developing world one billion people do not have access to a reliable source of clean water; and that every 19 seconds a child dies for lack of clean water.
Thus was born, Run for Water. Baerg cobbled together a board of competent people (all who call Abbotsford home) that has since grown to 16—ten which are committed runners. “Since many people in the developing world spend much of their days walking for hours fetching water,” he says. “Each May, we encourage people of all ages and abilities to run for water in order to help those in need of access to safe, clean water sources.”
Baerg states, “We don’t believe that a great run has to minimize the profile of a worthy cause.” And after participating in this year’s Run for Water Marathon, I can report too that the focus, attention and passion that Baerg and company have for providing southern Ethiopia (their current focus) with clean water; they also have for putting on a topnotch running event. Evident from the beginning, was that these guys understand runners and what we want in an event. The run has grown substantially from its debut in 2008 when 650 folks participated in a 5K, 10K, and half marathon. In 2010 the board added a marathon. This year an ultra run was added led by Ray Zahab. This year’s field for all events exceeded 4,300.
The events are staged separately from each other and with staggered times so there is no crowding and confusion. The 5 and 10K runners have their own separate start and finish area. We marathoners never saw them—it was like participating in a much smaller and more intimate event. Yet, while the marathon field was just 176, the race support rivaled large events. Over a dozen aid stations (with ample water of course) and plenty of enthusiastic volunteers lined the course. Parts of the route were closed to traffic. Roads that weren’t were quiet rural farm roads.
The course itself was wonderful—much like a Canadian Skagit Flats Marathon and perfect for a Boston qualifier. Much of the way was on flat farm roads hemmed in by a pair of Sumas Mountains (one American and one Canadian). At the finish at beautiful Mill Lake Park there were lots going on from educational displays on water projects to runner oriented vendors. I spent a little time in the Med Tent (low electrolytes) where I encountered professional and friendly folks. I actually had an enjoyable post race experience with a big comfy chair, blanket, and catered drinks!
“The local community has really rallied around this event and made it their own,” says Baerg. You immediately sense that. “Many local companies are sponsors and over twenty schools teach the curriculum we’ve developed around clean water,” he adds. “Many of the schools hold their own mini-runs and have raised $60,000!” Since its inception, Run for Water has raised a staggering $700,000. “We want to continue to grow, particularly the longer distances,” says Baerg. “It’s one of the flattest marathon courses in the area,” he adds. “So we’re excited to see a number of people qualifying for Boston and hope that this contingent grows.” I didn’t qualify for Boston, but I’ll definitely return to Abbotsford again to run this marathon. Perhaps I’ll see many of you there next time as well.